Is it safe to go to the beach?

is it safe to go to the beach
Photo via kansasphoto/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

With summer in full swing, a trip to the ocean may sound as tempting as ever—even in the middle of a pandemic. But, in reality, is it safe to go to the beach?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and a handful of infectious disease experts agree that it is relatively safe to hit the sand and surf, as long as you practice social distancing and wear a mask when socializing with other people. 

Like other public spaces, people who are more at risk of contracting COVID-19 or who do not feel well should stay home. But some doctors argue that the beach might even be a safer alternative than hanging out in indoor locations. 

“The open air and breeze make it less likely for respiratory particles to transmit, and the open expanses of the beach facilitate social distancing,” Dr. Tania Elliott told Health.

Updated on June 16, the CDC considerations for public beaches say the guiding principle that “closer and longer interaction with people who don’t live together raises risk” is essential to keep in mind. 

“The more an individual interacts with people he or she doesn’t live with and the closer and longer each interaction is, the higher the risk is of getting infected with the virus that causes COVID-19,” the CDC wrote.

The CDC splits the amount of risk into three categories: 

Lowest risk: Staff and beach visitors stay at least 6 feet away from people they don’t live with. Staff and beach visitors do not share food, equipment, toys, or supplies with people they don’t live with.

More risk: Staff and beach visitors get close—less than 6 feet away from people they don’t live with but who live in the same local area. Staff and beach visitors limit their sharing of food, equipment, toys, or supplies with others—for example, they share only with a next-door neighbor.

Highest risk: Staff and beach visitors get closer—less than 6 feet away from people who live in a different area where the spread of the virus might be greater. Staff and beach visitors freely share their food, equipment, toys, or supplies with others, even people they don’t know.

The CDC suggests several ways beach managers can keep swimmers and tanners safe, including encouraging social distancing both in and out of the water, limiting occupancy in small spaces like bathrooms, and discouraging visitors from sharing items like goggles that are difficult to sanitize. Visitors should also make sure to add hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes to their beach bags. 

While the CDC does recommend face coverings on the shore, it discourages wearing a mask in the water. 

“Advise those wearing cloth face coverings to not wear them in the water, because they can be difficult to breathe through when they’re wet,” the CDC said. “This means it is particularly important to maintain social distancing in the water.”

Dr. Joseph Khabbaza told Health that you don’t need to worry about contracting COVID-19 in saltwater. 

“The virus is not going to live very well in salty water,” Khabbaza said. “The water-borne spread has not been shown at all.”

Dr. Shoshana Ungerleider, an internal medicine physician, told CBS News she recommends checking to see how busy a beach is in advance. 

“I like to say at least 10 feet away from others just to give yourself a buffer and don’t swim up next to other people where they could cough or spit, or their breath could get on you,” Ungerleider said. 

Additionally, she recommended visitors travel in small groups, bring their own supplies instead of sharing, and bring two face masks if one gets wet. 

Is it safe:

Sources: CDC, Health, CBS News 

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